By Linda Chion
Starting this month, water, wastewater and reclaimed water customers of Hillsborough County Water Resources are required to reregister to pay their bills either online or via phone.
At issue is the utility bill system upgrade for online and phone payments that went into effect April 28. Customers using their old logins and passwords will find they no longer work under the new system, which is designed to enhance data security and improve service.
The change requires all customers to reregister their accounts, which allows for “multifactor authentication,” also known as “two-factor notification,” which is among the top must-do’s for data security, according to cybersecurity officials engaged in the fight against identity theft.
Traditionally, a username and password are used to authenticate a login, which tells a service provider that a person is indeed the person they claim to be. “Unfortunately, that’s not a very good way to do it,” according to a Microsoft report, which notes usernames are often too easy to determine, especially as “sometimes they’re just your email address.” Moreover, “since passwords can be hard to remember, people tend to pick simple ones, or use the same password at many different sites.”
To hammer home the need for online security, World Password Day was on May 5 and National Computer Security Day is on Wednesday, November 30. Both days drive home the message that cybersecurity and identity theft affects everything from where we bank to how we spend our money to how we pay our bills.
It’s becoming standard now for financial institutions, applications and social media, shopping and billing sites to require multifactor verification, which typically involves something known (such as a password or PIN number), something in one’s possession (such as a smartphone, to which an authentication code is sent) and something unique to the individual (such as a fingerprint or facial recognition).
To alert customers of the changes to its billing system, Hillsborough County Water Resources sent postcards to customers in April and noted the upgrade as well on monthly bill statements. The utility provides drinking water and wastewater treatment services to unincorporated Hillsborough County.
For more information, visit www.hcflgov.net/water. For technical assistance, call 813-276-2700.